By Shaun Dowling
With the season drawing to a close and a vital game which should secure 5th place, one of the people constantly overlook as he keeps out of the limelight, is Damien Comolli. I don´t know about you, but although I saw the decision of appointing a director of football strategy as a positive move from the then NESV, I was unsure about Comolli and the role he would play. If we believe what we read in the press, he was surplus to requirements at Tottenham having helped them to with some valuable player choices. However, Harry Redknapp doesn´t seem to be a lover of someone dealing with players and contract and prefers a more traditional English manager role when making decisions. Comolli was in his way. Wenger too had his falling out with Comolli when he was scouting for the Arse by claiming he was the one who had discovered the young talent coming through.
Well, whoever was right, Redknapp certainly is not seen to be a professional buyer of players if the BBC´s Panorama program is anything to go buy and Wenger is a moaning ungrateful get anyway and we saw that as KK quit rightly told him to p#ss off. However, what the role of Comolli when he was appointed was still a new development for the club and as director of football strategies how would he deal with the club who had been so dependent on Rafa and having an old style manager who was not everyone´s vote first choice for the job. Could Comolli´s experience hack it?
It seems Comolli´s first major decisions was getting Uncle Woy out and appointing the man every LFC fan wanted Sir Kenny Dalglish. Good move Comolli, no-one could question that decision and although at the time it was seen by some as a risk, we can say today it was the right one. I may hear you say, but was it Comolli who decided on Kenny? We can all see that FSV, clearly know what they´re doing about sport commercially, but they never professed to know anything about football. There first major appointment was to place Comolli in the position to advise them on what footballing decisions should be made. So he can´t have been ignored when they wanted to know what to do with Hodgson and interim replacement.
The good thing for Comolli is that as he is said to be someone who does his research and uses statistical data to help his arguments. Remember, there wasn´t a lot of recent data on Kenny´s management when he was appointed other than he was loved 100% by the fans. He has therefore had his chance to see Dalglish in action and build up his observations to make a more concise decision on whether Kenny should be offered the job full time or not. If the ´risk’ didn´t work, no fan at the club could have complained as we got what we wanted. Due to the current success, it has work in his favour having hard evidence to show the board why Kenny should be the only candidate to be our manager in the long-term.
If we look at the appointment of Hodgson and the disgraceful knock back of our legendary No 7 we can see Purslow´s non-football judgment (despite him stating he was a true fan) was misplaced. The job of appointing a manager cannot be in the hands of a novice but someone who has football as his focus and not the interests of to American Cowboys. Today it is in the hands of professionals.
I´m sure that Harry Redknapp wanted to get shut of Comolli so quickly, as he was afraid of someone messing with his first team, but this is not the job of the football director. It seems Harry´s judgment was wrong and seeing Comolli in the stands next game could come back to haunt him. Like the football saying goes ´a player should do his talking on the pitch’. If we take this analogy of the director of football, as Comolli has been since March, then a director should do his talking ‘off the pitch’. Comolli has clearly stayed out of the way of the first team. Thank goodness we have never seen him at Melwood in a red and black track-suit. Letting Hodgson go by mutual consent, was seems similar to the decision of Martin Jol at Spurs when he first arrived and at St Etienne with Laurent Roussey when he was there. The clubs was going badly wrong and a change was needed. As far as I can see as director of football he has kept away from the first team only producing the contracts and cheque book when they were needed. The work of sorting out what goes on on the pitch has been Kenny, Steve Clark and Sammy Lee.
On the ‘off pitch’ contract and transfer front, the decisions have also been decisive. What can we now say about bringing in Suarez? A masterstroke. Where was every other club looking at the time? While I wish it was Kenny, it seems negotiations were already underway for some time. It was said that LFC could wait until the end of the season to bring the lad in. The decisions to buy him seemed to have already been agreed on it was just when he´d come was the question. Watching Torres´ face get longer was also a no-brainer especially with 50M knocking about and with Suarez ready to jump the deal was made. Then up pops Carroll just for good measure and no one saw that coming. Kenny had got what he wanted which was more creativity up front but I´m not sure the King could have handled things so quickly without knowing which agent to deal with when he was still new to his old job. What Kenny can now do with these players and who had already had was clearly down to him. Comolli does not pick the team and we have never heard him try to talk tactics. Kenny makes the team tick the Liverpool way and motivates the players. However, Kenny is not the only one talking up the club.
After the coup of pulling off a double transfer, Comolli laughed that agents have started calling him offering players to join Liverpool. He stated that the club will bring in ‘top players’ and that FSV has money to do it. He has not spoke about who or the number of players but the fact that he said that the squad was poor in depth seems to say that a number of new players he has been looking at will come without any long-winded negotiations and fights with other clubs. It is also good to see that deserving players such as Kuyt, Spearing and Lucas have happily put pen to paper and no angry drawn out negotiations have happened such as the Tevez and Rooney´s of this world. Note, it is Comolli seen with each of them when the deals were signed. Players are happy to be part of the set up and this possibly difficult time in a footballers carrier of renewing long term contracts has passed so quickly and none of these player´s form has been affected. In fact it seems to have helped them.
Further positives can be taken from Comolli´s talk of the Academy work. Comolli has also been talking about the quality of the youth sides and the future of the young players. We have never seen him slag off any of the work done by any predecessor and in fact he has praised it. This has brought stability and given us hope to our young lads that the future is bright. One also small decision that has had fine consequences was after Kenny´s first game against Man U. Kenny said in his first interview that one the bus home he spoke to Comolli about bringing in Steve Clark. I´m not sure who rang Clark that night but the next day Clark was at the training ground to help the team make the progress we have so happily seen. As Kenny stated this decision was agreed first and Comolli didn´t hesitate to give his backing.
So all in all, Comolli for me has a good appraisal as director of football so far. Now in the transfer period it will be interesting to see how good he really is. He certainly seems to have the backing of FSV and has shown us what his role is. FSV are quiet as always because they already have their football man on the ground working for the club. Now if Comolli has been dealing with the right player´s agents, let´s see the money being made available and the quality we need coming into the side. That 19th title we have so badly missed for the past 20 years may just be a step nearer next season. Comon Comolli YNWA!